I have long had a theory about the current “organic” food craze that seems to be sweeping the nation and hitting nearly every shelf of the grocery store lately. This theory is that food companies now have an excuse to repackage the same thing, slap the word “Organic” on it, and charge a premium for it. In the end, we all believe that we’re eating better food, when in reality, it’s what they have always been making, but now we have a placebo in the word “organic” that makes us feel safe.
This has the potential for more harm than good. There are companies out there, and a lot of them, that have always produced “organic” food, but did not have to label the package as such. Now they have a new option. They can conform to the “organic” label, and mark their “organic” food line up, to match the higher costs of everything else. But that’s not all, they can take the liberty to create lesser grade foods than they had in the past, and put the old label on it.
Now, they’re making more money on the organic label that adorns the same food that they’ve put on the shelf for years, having changed nothing about the formula itself. They are also able to produce ‘non-organic’ variations with cheaper ingredients. While it might cost some capital to develop the non-organic versions, they would quickly be able to make up for the money loss in what they’re saving every day by purchasing ingredients at lower-costs.
The “Organic” label is a double-edged sword, at best.
Granted, this is all worst-case-scenario, but there is new research in the Society of Chemical Industry’s Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture that shows there is no evidence to support the argument that organic food is better than food grown with the use of pesticides and chemicals.
Many people pay more than a third more for organic food in the belief that it has more nutritional content than food grown with pesticides and chemicals.
But the research by Dr Susanne Bügel and colleagues from the Department of Human Nutrition, University of Copenhagen, shows there is no clear evidence to back this up.
In the first study ever to look at retention of minerals and trace elements, animals were fed a diet consisting of crops grown using three different cultivation methods in two seasons.
The study looked at the following crops – carrots, kale, mature peas, apples and potatoes – staple ingredients that can be found in most families’ shopping list.
The first cultivation method consisted of growing the vegetables on soil which had a low input of nutrients using animal manure and no pesticides except for one organically approved product on kale only.
The second method involved applying a low input of nutrients using animal manure, combined with use of pesticides, as much as allowed by regulation.
Finally, the third method comprised a combination of a high input of nutrients through mineral fertilizers and pesticides as legally allowed.
The crops were grown on the same or similar soil on adjacent fields at the same time and so experienced the same weather conditions. All were harvested and treated at the same time. In the case of the organically grown vegetables, all were grown on established organic soil.
After harvest, results showed that there were no differences in the levels of major and trace contents in the fruit and vegetables grown using the three different methods.
Produce from the organically and conventionally grown crops were then fed to animals over a two year period and intake and excretion of various minerals and trace elements were measured. Once again, the results showed there was no difference in retention of the elements regardless of how the crops were grown.
Dr Bügel says: ‘No systematic differences between cultivation systems representing organic and conventional production methods were found across the five crops so the study does not support the belief that organically grown foodstuffs generally contain more major and trace elements than conventionally grown foodstuffs.’
Dr Alan Baylis, honorary secretary of SCI’s Bioresources Group, adds: ‘Modern crop protection chemicals to control weeds, pests and diseases are extensively tested and stringently regulated, and once in the soil, mineral nutrients from natural or artificial fertilizers are chemically identical. Organic crops are often lower yielding and eating them is a lifestyle choice for those who can afford it.’
This research was supported by the International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems (ICROFS), Denmark.
For more information or a full copy of the article, contact: Meral Nugent, Press and Public Relations Manager, T: +44 (0)20 7598 1533, F: +44 (0) 20 7598 1545, Mob: 07931 315077 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
What do you think?